Senegal’s health system overwhelmed as third wave sweeps through country

Senegal experiences most serious surge in COVID-19 cases since pandemic began, health workers burned out.

The West African country has endured a third wave of COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, with cases soaring from a few dozen a day late last month to about 1,700 cases per day this month. Health authorities have reported most of the new cases in Dakar, the country’s capital and the epicentre of the pandemic, a city of over three million people. With more than 15000 cases and 139 deaths since the start of July, Senegal's health ministry warned on Monday that hospitals in Dakar were "close to saturation," with overworked medical personnel suffering exhaustion. After comfortably weathering the first two waves, health services were now stretched dangerously thin, said Dr. Khardiata Diallo, head of infectious disease at Fann hospital in Dakar.

Many infections outside clinics were going undiagnosed, while post-mortems were not routine, she said. "The situation is much more serious. What we see here is only the tip of the iceberg. "Senegal, like many other African countries experiencing a third wave of infections, is particularly vulnerable due to low vaccination rates. According to government records, the country has administered fewer than one million doses of a vaccine to a population of around 16 million people. Overall, the number of cases in Africa has accelerated in recent weeks, reaching a new high of roughly 50,000 new daily infections in early July. A huge concern as less than 2% of Africa's 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated, making the continent susceptible to more waves of the disease.